Champaign's mayoral candidates face off at a public forum

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CHAMPAIGN--Champaign's four mayoral candidates gathered in the city council chambers Wednesday evening, to answer questions from their would-be constituents less than a month before election day.

Right off the top, they were asked what will be the biggest issue they face during their term. For three of the four, tackling the recent surge in violence takes priority.

"We need to have a variety of answers and working with small groups to get everyone's input and different ideas to find those solutions," said council member and candidate, Karen Foster.

"We need to continue to work with our police, and also help to continue to build trust in our communities so that when there is violence people will come forward and help the police to solve these crimes," said council member and candidate, Deb Frank Feinen.  

All four candidates expressed their support for and deference to Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb on how to curb the crime rate. Joe Petry, the Champaign Park District board president and candidate, also mentioned economic development as one potential remedy.

"Violence really comes from a lack of economic opportunity so really focusing on the creation of jobs and opportunities for people across the board," said Petry.
    
Other suggestions on how to grow the economy included promoting infill close to the city's center and authorizing TIFs to subsidize redevelopment in other neighborhoods in need of a boost. But current mayor Don Gerard said the biggest hurdle he would face during another term would be how to handle reduced funding from the state under Governor Bruce Rauner's budget plan.

"We will be set right back, if 4,000 people are laid off at the University of Illinois, we will be set right back to those levels," said Gerard. We will be facing the exact same things as we did at the top of the recession."

While the candidates said it is too early to decide what would need to be cut, they did pledge to work with city departments and staff on how to prioritize if elected.

Come April 7th, voters will decide which one of the four will pound the gavel in the council chambers for the next four years.

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